Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Fennelicious

With a hurricane threatening and a full bag of Trader Joe's langoustine tails in the freezer, I knew I'd have to whip up a pre-storm dinner with them or essentially flush an Alexander Hamilton down the toilet. We also had three Cubanelle peppers from the garden and a bulb of fennel (from the grocery store). I was pondering the combination when Mr Minx suggested that I think Thailand. Genius! Our container garden was overflowing with the licorice-y Thai basil, a be a great reinforcement for the similarly-flavored fennel. Additionally, we always have a jar of Thai chilli paste with sweet basil in the fridge, so I didn't have to try particularly hard to get Thai flavors in the dish.

Rather than cook the whole fennel bulb, I reserved some of it in order to make a raw salad, to add yet another licorice-y dimension. It was a delicious combo, one which made me realize just how much I love the flavor of fennel, particularly when it's cooked. (Oddly enough, I don't like licorice candy at all, and am not all that hot on Italian cookies, either.)

Fennelicious Thai Basil Shellfish

4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 bulb fennel, cored and sliced (divided use)
canola oil
3 Cubanelle or Italian frying peppers, cored, deseeded, and sliced (if you don't have the Cubanelles, you could add a small amount of ripe bell pepper; too much, however, might drown out the much more-delicate fennel flavor)
1 carrot, chopped into matchsticks (divided use)
1 heaping tablespoon Thai chilli paste with sweet basil
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves (divided use)
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
10 ounces medium shrimp or langoustine tails
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon agave syrup
salt
steamed rice, for serving

In a large sauté pan, heat a bit of oil and add scallions and about 2/3 of the fennel. Cook until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and 2/3 of the carrots and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until peppers wilt. Stir in chilli paste, half of the basil, and cilantro. If using shrimp, add to skillet and stir fry until shrimp turn pink and opaque - 3-5 minutes. If using langoustine tails, add to skillet and heat through. Before serving, stir in remaining basil.

While vegetables are cooking, toss 1/3 of fennel and carrots with the rice wine vinegar and agave syrup. Season with salt to taste.

Serve stir fry over rice and top with fennel salad. Serves 2-4.

Posted by theminx on Minxeats.com.